Hacklet 14 – Hacks Around the House

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In this weeks Hacklet we’re looking at household hacks. Not necessarily globally connected home automation hacks, but task specific hacks that we want in our lives yesterday!

We’ve all had it happen, you’re burning the midnight oil on a project when you realize it’s garbage night. The mad dash to collect empty anti-static bags, last night’s Chinese food, and the rest of the trash before actually venturing outside in the dark.

bins2[Mehmet-cileli] doesn’t have to deal with any of that, thanks to My Bins, his automated trash and recycling can moving system. Normally the bins are stationed near the house. Each garbage night, the system springs into action. The cans and their platform pivots 90 degrees. The entire system then rolls along a track to the curb. Once the cans have been collected, everything rolls back ready for more trash. We just hope [Mehmet's] garbage men are nice enough to put the bins back on their platform!

teatimeNext we have the perfect cup of tea. [Marcel] kept forgetting his tea while it was steeping. After ending up with ink a few times, he built this Automatic Tea Timer. A button starts the timer, and after a few minutes, the tea bag is automatically lifted and a light illuminates to let you know your tea is ready. [Marcel] used a Raspberry Pi Arduino 555 simple R-C timer circuit to create his delay. The lift arm is a discarded hard drive read arm. The light bulb limits current through the voice coils.

greenhouse1[Juan Sandu] always has veggies with his Smart Small Greenhouse. [Juan] has created a desktop sized greenhouse that gives plants what they crave. No, not Brawndo, we’re talking water, warmth, and light. An Arduino Uno uses sensors to monitor humidity, temperature, light, and moisture. Based upon one of two pre-set plant types, the system determines when to water, turn on lights, or even power up a fan to keep temperatures plant friendly.  [Juan] is still working on his greenhouse, but his code is already up on Github.

 

grillupNext up is [nerwal] with his entry in The Hackaday Prize, GrillUp. GrillUp is a remote grill temperature monitoring system with a cooling spray. Up to 6 food grade thermometers provide GrillUp with its temperature data. If things are getting a bit too hot, Grillup cools the situation down by spraying water, beer, or your favorite marinade. The system is controlled over Bluetooth Low Energy from an android smart phone. A laser pointer helps to aim the water spray. Once the cooling zones are set up, the system runs automatically. It even has a sprinkler mode, where it sprays everything down.

led-lightsEvery hacker’s house needs some Sci-fi mood lights, right? [spetku and maehem] round out this weeks Hacklet with their Fifth Element Stone Mood Lighting. Originally an entry in the Hackaday Sci-fi contest, these mood lights are based on the elemental stones in everyone’s favorite Bruce Willis movie. The lights are 3D printed in sections which stack over foamboard cores. The actual light comes from a trio of RGB LEDs. LED control is from the same brain board which controls the team’s Robot Army. The lights are designed to open up just like the ones in the movie, though fire, earth, wind, and water are not required. The servos [spetku and maehem] selected weren’t quite up to the task, but they mention this will be remedied in a future revision.

That’s a wrap for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

[Ben Krasnow] Hacks a Scanning Electron Microscope

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[Ben Krasnow] is quite possibly the only hacker with a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) collection. He’s acquired a JEOL JSM-T200, which was hot stuff back in the early 1980’s. [Ben] got a great deal, too.  He only had to pay shipping from Sweden to his garage. The SEM was actually dropped during shipment, but thankfully the only damage was a loose CRT neck plug. The JSM-T200 joins [Ben's] homemade SEM, his DIY CT scanner, the perfect cookie machine, and a host of other projects in his lab.

The JSM-T200 is old tech; the primary way to store an image from this machine is through a screen-mounted Polaroid camera, much like an old oscilloscope. However, it still has a lot in common with current SEMs. In live video modes, an SEM can only collect one or two reflected electrons off a given section of a target. This creates a low contrast ghostly image we’ve come to associate with SEMs.

Attempting to fire more electrons at the target will de-focus the beam due to the electrons repelling each other. Trying to fire the electrons from higher voltages will just embed them into the target. Even SEMs with newer technology have to contend with these issues. Luckily, there is a way around them.

When “writing to photo”, the microscope switches to a slow scan mode, where the image is scanned over a period of a minute. This slower scan gives the microscope extra time to fire and collect more electrons – leading to a much better image. Using this mode, [Ben] discovered his microscope was capable of producing high-resolution digital images. It just needed a digital acquisition subsystem grafted on.

Click past the break to see how [Ben] modernized his microscope!

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Video Links: Hunting for Hacks at Maker Faire

 

Why not round out our two-week Bay Area Maker Faire coverage with a Links post? This time around it’s video links. We mixed together a bunch of interesting clips that didn’t get their own video, as well as a dose of what it feels like to walk around the Faire all weekend. Join us after the break for the links.

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Hackaday Scouts For Hacks at SXSW

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It seems like everyone is going to South by Southwest this year. We even heard about it on The Today Show this week. But we still have hope that there’s awesomeness to be found. A few of our crew will be there this year and they’re on the lookout for something special. The festival starts on Friday and runs more than a week to the following Sunday but our guys will be on the ground Sunday, March 9th through Tuesday the 11th.

Sure, we’ll take a gander at the interactive hardware areas, but preliminary research tells us these may be watered down to the lowest common denominator. What we really want to see is if a Burning-Man-like culture is beginning to coalesce around SXSW. Are you carrying around your own hacked hardware at this year’s event? Do you roll up in a custom party-mobile and spend the week trying to keep the 24-hour tailgate alive with your fold out pig roaster and awning-based entertainment system? We’d like to check that out.

[Eren], [Alek], and [Ivan] are handling coverage of the event. They’ve been killing themselves making Hackaday Projects an awesome place to share and interact. What they wanted was a bit of down time, but handing out T-shirts and Stickers in exchange for a look at your hacks doesn’t get in the way of that. Connect with them on Twitter using the hash tag #HaD_SXSW. They’ll be using it to tweet their activities but of course it works both ways. Your best bet of just crashing into these guys is to check out [Alek's] talk on StageTwo.

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Video Game Automation Hacks

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3rd party console game controllers sometimes sport a “rapid-fire” button to give gamers an unfair advantage. [Connor's] project is along the same lines, but his hack had a different goal: automate the input of GTA5 cheat codes. [Connor] admits that this is his first Arduino hack, but aside from a small hiccup, he managed to pull it off. The build connects each button on a PS3 controller via some ribbon cable to its own digital out on an Arduino Uno . After plugging in some pretty straightforward code, [Connor] can simply press one button to automate a lengthy cheat code process.

[Matt's] hack manages to save him even more user input in this second video game hack, which automates finger clicks in an Android game. [Matt] pieced together a couple of servos plugged into a PICAXE-18M2 microcontroller, which repeats one simple action in [Matt's] Sims Freeplay game: continuously “freshening” (flushing?) a toilet. To mimic the same capacitive response of two fingers, [Matt] built the two contact surfaces out of some anti-static foam, then grounded them out with a wire to the ground on the board.

Check out a gallery of [Connor's] controller and a video of [Matt's] tablet hack after the break, then check out a rapid fire controller hack that attacks an XBox360 controller.

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Biodiesel equipment hacks

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[Oldman] took on a biodiesel project for some friends a few years ago. A fully operational processing rig was never achieved, but he did document some of the successful hacks he came up during the project.

The idea is to reclaim the waste oil from restaurants and burn it in your modified racing motorcycle or other mode of transportation. That makes it sound easy, but have you ever seen what happens to bacon fat after it cools? Granted, we’re talking oil from vegetable sources but the same type of coagulation presents itself. Pumping it through a processing rig becomes especially tough in the winter, and that’s why [Oldman] came up with the heated pump head on the right. It’s got three connections; two are part of a loop of copper tubing, allowing 150 degree water to be circulated to liquefy the grease. The third connection sucks up the melted oil. You also need to regulate the water content of the fuel. The inset images of a salad dressing jar are his test runs with applying vacuum to dehydrate the fuel. He learned that it needs to be heated slightly to reduce foaming. He had planned to scale up this concept to apply vacuum to fuel stored in propane tanks.

Packing a Jeep Wrangler full of hacks

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Picking just one image to show off all of the hacks done on this Jeep Wrangler is a tough order. We decided to go with this custom ceiling console as it features the most work done in a confined area.

Give the video walk-around a bit of time before you decide it’s not for you. [Eddie Zarick] spends the first moments touting his “Oakley” branding of the vehicle in decals, emblems, embroidered seats, zipper pulls, and more. But after that you’ll get a look at the pressurized water system we previously saw. Pull open the back gate and there’s a nice cargo cover he built that includes a cubby hole which stores the soft sides when he wants to take the top off. There are several other interesting touches, like the police radar spoofer that he uses to scare the crap out of speeders. Ha!

The ceiling console we mentioned earlier was completely custom-built. It includes a CB, scanner, HAM, and seven-inch Android tablet. There is also a set of push buttons which control the various bells and whistles; well, spotlights and inverter actually. Just add a commode and he’s ready to live out of his car.

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